US coronavirus death toll tops 100,000

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 9:04 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020
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8:16 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic in the US has ended for the day. Get the latest updates from around the globe here.

9:04 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Infectious disease doctor says he's in "deep mourning" as US reaches a deadly milestone

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Dr. William Schaffner
Dr. William Schaffner CNN

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Infectious Diseases Division at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he is in “deep mourning” as the US reached the deadly milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths Wednesday.

“I’m in deep mourning as a person. I’m in deep mourning as a clinician, and also as a person who works in public health,” Schaffner said on CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. “Many of these deaths could have been prevented, but going forward, we want to prevent many, many more deaths, right?” 

Prevention comes in the form of remaining home as much as possible, he said. Wear a face masks. Obey the six-foot separation rule to avoid physical interaction with others. Good hand hygiene is important. Be careful about who is allowed to visit. People aged 65 and older should pay particular attention to the guidelines.

“I’m afraid those are the kind of interventions we’ll have to live with, as uncomfortable, as socially disturbing as they are, for some time,” Schaffner said.

Schaffner added that nursing homes have to do a better job with infection control. One third of US deaths are in nursing homes. Visitors should be restricted as much as possible. Staff should be masked. There should be temperatures and symptom checks before staff go in the building.

“I think it can be done,” Schaffner said. “It may not be able to be done perfectly, but we can do a better job than we’re currently doing.”  

If people don’t flout the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, society can work together and safely start to open up again so that people can reestablish relationships that “we treasure and we need,” Schaffner said.



8:01 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Amtrak to cut up to 20% of workforce

From CNN's Greg Wallace

Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images/FILE
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images/FILE

In a message to employees, Amtrak President and CEO Bill Flynn has announced the railroad will cut up to 20% of its workforce between now and October when its 2021 fiscal year begins.

Amtrak has seen a 95% reduction in ridership and revenue levels, Flynn said.

"An essential adjustment we must make for FY 2021 is to reduce our workforce by up to 20%," Flynn wrote.

"This reduction is necessary to ensure we have a sustainable Amtrak that can continue to make critical investments in our core and long-term growth strategies, while also keeping safety as our top priority," he added.

7:12 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Autopsies show lungs of African-American Covid-19 victims clogged with blood clots

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The autopsies of 10 African-American victims of coronavirus show their lungs were clogged with blood clots, researchers reported Wednesday.

All 10 patients had underlying conditions that have been shown to worsen infection, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. But genetic factors could also be at play, the team at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine said.

The findings, published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, may help explain why blacks are suffering so much more from Covid-19 in the US and in some other countries such as Britain, the researchers said.

“We found that the small vessels and capillaries in the lungs were obstructed by blood clots and associated hemorrhage that significantly contributed to decompensation and death in these patients,” Dr. Richard Vander Heide, head of pathology at the medical school, said.

They also found blood markers called D-dimers, which are signs the body has been working to break down blood clots.

“I think obesity is important in our population,” Vander Heide told CNN. Fat tissue activates inflammatory chemicals – one of the mechanisms that underlies obesity’s link to a variety of disease. Covid-19 infection generates even more inflammation, which doctors believe is involved in the damage caused by Covid-19 and, perhaps, the generation of blood clots.

All over the US, doctors treating Covid-19 patients are reporting their bodies are riddled with blood clots. Some early studies have shown that treating patients with anticoagulants can help.

The 10 patients all came to the hospital after having three to seven days of mild cough and fever. All suddenly collapsed or had sudden trouble breathing.

7:20 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Wyoming will allow large gatherings starting July 1

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Gov. Mark Gordon
Gov. Mark Gordon Pool

Wyoming will allow gatherings of up to 250 people starting on July 1 as coronavirus restrictions are relaxed in the state, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday. 

At the same time, the state announced that upwards of a dozen rodeos and related events across the state will not take place this year.

Cheyenne Frontier Days, which organizers say is the world’s largest indoor rodeo, will also be canceled. It has taken place annually since 1897, but Chief Executive Officer Tom Hirsig said there is too much danger this year.

"One of the worst things we could do would be to cause our state to go backwards in the recovery process," he said. “To shut down businesses that had just reopened because we caused another outbreak.”

Gordon appeared to wipe back tears at a news conference today as he described growing up in a ranching family and around rodeos.

“This coronavirus thing sucks,” Gordon said in his prepared remarks. “There are just no two ways about it.”

6:49 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Walt Disney World sets reopening date with protocols in place

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP/FILE
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP/FILE

After nearly four months of closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Walt Disney World in Florida has set a July 11 reopening date.

"We're excited to have our major theme parks reopening here in the area," said Orange County, Florida, Mayor Jerry Demings.

But much like most of the US, the theme park, dubbed "The Happiest Place On Earth," will look vastly different.

"We have sat with the Disney executives and they walked us through really the different screenings and sanitation protocols that they have put in place," Demings told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, adding that the focus is to "guarantee that the guests who patronize the facilities will be safe."

As compared to other large American metropolitan regions, Demings said the Orlando area boasts a relatively low coronavirus positivity rate at 2.8%. "We have tested some 67,000 people in our community and 1,877 of them have tested positive," he said.

The emphasis now is on keeping those numbers down.

"Our goal is to keep it low but I want to reopen our economy to the extent we can. And so we're excited about Walt Disney World reopening and the sanitation measures will allow that to be a safe process," he said.

For specifics, the Florida attractions will minimize person-to-person contact in hopes of avoiding any large Covid-19 outbreaks.

"I believe that with the touchless, the cashless types of systems that they will be putting in place, it should preclude the virus from being easily spread between human beings," Demings added.

A gigantic global tourism attraction, Walt Disney World isn't yet ready to open wide swaths of hotels. However restaurants will open at a reduced capacity, and visitors will be encouraged to follow protocols as set in place locally.

"Throughout our community, we have tried to ensure that we have masks and the availability of hand sanitizers," he said. "So if you visit here, you will see the majority of the people who will be using the personal protective equipment... by and large, because of peer pressure. We're getting the cooperation to wear the mask and do all those things we need to keep everybody safe."

6:45 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Washington state to allow limited worship services

From CNN’s Andy Rose

Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee Pool

Washington state will allow worship services again but under tight restrictions. 

Gov. Jay Inslee said outdoor services will be limited to 100 people, not including staff members. 

“It has been very heartening to see religious congregations find ways to remain emotionally connected,” he said Wednesday at a news conference.

Additionally, counties that have been allowed to move into the state’s phase two plan will be able to have indoor services of no more than 50 people – or 25% of capacity in larger congregations.

Inslee said anyone singing in a worship service will be expected to wear a face covering.

“The louder we project our voices, the longer this virus travels,” he said.

6:39 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

"Silent" Covid-19 infection rate may be much higher than scientists thought, study finds

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

More than eight of 10 cruise ship passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 had no symptoms, according to a new study performed by researchers who happened to be aboard a cruise ship in the midst of the pandemic.

The cruise was supposed to follow the route of the famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but instead scientists were able to watch its trapped passengers and crew to learn how the novel coronavirus behaves. Their research was published Wednesday in the journal Thorax.

The ship left Argentina in mid-March after the World Health Organization had declared Covid-19 a pandemic. The crew took every precaution to try and keep the novel coronavirus off the ship. Passengers who had been in countries with high infection rates weren’t allowed on board. Everyone’s temperature was checked before they boarded the ship. Hand sanitizer was plentiful. Once on board the ship, no one had contact with anyone outside of the cruise.

Yet on the eighth day of the cruise, someone developed a fever.

The crew immediately put the ship on lockdown. Passengers were confined to cabins. Daily cabin cleaning service stopped. Crew members wore personal protective equipment when they interacted with sick passengers. Still, eight passengers and crew required medical evacuation for respiratory failure.

On day 20 of the cruise, all the remaining people on board were swab tested. More than half tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Of those who tested positive, only 19% had symptoms and 81% had no symptoms at all. In 10 cases, two passengers who shared cabins didn’t have the same test result.

“It is difficult to find a reliable estimate of the number of COVID positive patients who have no symptoms,” wrote study co-author Alan Smyth. Smyth is also the joint editor in chief of the journal Thorax. Smyth and his co-authors conclude that the WHO’s estimate that 1% of the Covid-19 infections are asymptomatic falls far short, at least from what they experienced on the ship.

6:27 p.m. ET, May 27, 2020

Two Illinois churches ask Supreme Court to halt restriction on in-person services

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Two churches in Illinois are asking the Supreme Court to halt a Chicago-area restriction on in-person church services before Sunday.

The Supreme Court is already considering a similar request from a church in California. The petitions reflect the latest debate in the coronavirus culture wars and come after President Trump called on governors last week to reopen religious institutions for services. 

The churches, Elim Romanian Pentecostal Church and Logos Baptist Ministries, are represented by Liberty Counsel. 

Their lawyers say the 10-person limit on religious worship services amounts to discriminatory treatment against houses of worship because businesses, such as big box retail stores, liquor stores, restaurants and office buildings don’t have similar restrictions. 

The churches are asking the court to lift the restrictions before this Sunday, the Christian holy day of Pentecost.

In court papers lawyers for the churches say they have undertaken “extraordinary efforts” to protect the well-being of their congregants and that they “do not seek to undermine Illinois’ unquestionable interest in protecting its citizenry” but that the orders issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker are “arbitrary and discriminatory.”

The Chicago Department of Health sent a letter on May 22 ordering the church leaders to comply with Pritzker's orders. 

The Supreme Court has not yet formally accepted the petition.